Are we home yet? – Baltimore Trip Pt 3

We did it…. well they did it, but I like to think our specific cheering squad helped boost morale. If you could HEAR the screams from Ben, and how Toni almost lost her voice, then you would think the same too.

I don’t even know how to write this seeing as we are no longer in the play offs as the Patriots defeated us. Isn’t sports lingo great – defeated – how extravagant!

I was placed with the task of writing about our way home – but I didn’t want to.. I still don’t want to. I want to still be there, still walking around with the rest of the fans, basking in us winning, us still being in the playoffs, still seeing Ben jump down the streets with so much energy that he had to do push ups in the hotel room in order to get some energy out.

However, we came home…we drove…for forever…and ever. I almost got sick – seriously I suck at car rides. I had Gravol, fresh air and I am sure everyone was thankful for that.

There were some highlights of the way home, so maybe I should just let you know about those. Because I wouldn’t personally like to read a sad blog about coming home from a vacation where we were stuck in the car for hours on end!

In the morning, the bakery attached to our hotel had chocolate croissants that were FRESHLY made that morning. As everyone was packing up and getting ready for the day, and to sit in the car, I went to the bakery and got coffee and croissants and brought them back to our meeting point of the trip, Julia and Ben’s room. Now do I have pictures of these delicious amazing, goooooeeeyy flakey yummy pastries? No I do not – because we ate them before I could get a picture of them. They were so good – so darn good!

JUST KIDDING!!! Of course I have a picture – jeeze this isn’t amateur hour, we bought more!

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Yum-O look at those eyes!

We even bought more for the drive home, so the beautiful picture you see above is our second batch of delicious treats.

Another highlight of our whole trip was how friendly everyone was – even as Mike was setting the GPS for home, a man who noticed Mike walked up to the open window and asked if he needed help to get any where. He then proceeded to tell us the completely wrong way to get home, but that was not the point. The point was he wanted to help – he told us to go from his house, which we were no where near, to get to Canada.

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The way home was long, like I said before. But with a great seat partner, which I had, and a request to go SHOPPING – it was made more bearable!

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Seat partner extrodinaire – who even held my hair when I thought I was going to throw up!

We stopped in Pennsylvania to stretch our legs, get food and to get some shopping in. We stopped at Victoria Secret where Julia found the love of real bras again since she has stopped nursing, Toni also bought little goodies, and I bought comfy pj’s. I also had my first Macy’s experience where I found and bought a dress for my wedding shower, and Julia and Toni tried to figure out how to steal a very large mirror that was sitting in the change room.

seriously ... can't take them any where!

Seriously…can’t take them anywhere!

After we were thoroughly scolded for wanting a car break from the men who failed to book off the next day, we were scurried to Subway where the option for “double meat” was asked very cordially. I declined…and I am happy to report for all our heart and waistlines’ sake, no one got double meat.

We were then shoved back into the car and whisked back to the border. The car ride home was uneventful – we tried to get home as soon as possible for fear that the rental fairies would turn our Tahoe back into a pumpkin.

The rest of the trip was a blur of…

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And this…

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With maybe a little bit of this…

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All in all it was a great trip – and I leave with you this amazing entrance picture of the great Suggs. Seriously, how bad ass is this picture!?

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It was a great trip, an amazing trip – and by far the best present I have ever given to Cody – even though the picture evidence that I have doesn’t really show it.

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This was after we won…I swear he loves me! Just kidding, love you babe!

~ Jacqui

Leaving, in a Tahoe! – Baltimore Trip Pt 1

When Ben and I first got together I knew less than nothing about football (American, that is…not to be confused with footie (Australian football), or soccer, or any other iteration). I knew it included a football, but that was it. I distinctly remember “playing” football in Grade 8. Our teacher put us on the field and then expected the magic to happen. For every other kid there, it did. For me, I stood in the middle of the field, completely lost and confused.

Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered my boyfriend, a.k.a. my now husband, LOVED football, LOVED the NFL, and LOVED tackling people. Yay! (Insert sarcasm here…and there…and above…everywhere, really.)

Over the 11 years of being together and the 8-almost-9 years of marriage, I have learned A LOT about football. I still can’t tell what kind of play the offense is going to run, or the defense is going to set up in answer, but the fact that I know who the offense is, who the defense is, which direction the ball is going, what down it is, and how many yards they have left until they get a fresh set of downs, is incredible…and is the result of hours and and hours and hours of watching football with my man. Also, bugging him incessantly with questions (like, why is it called the first down when it’s the 80th down they’ve had…or they ‘get a first down’ when they were just on a second down…and what the hell is going on?!). I can proudly say that I can hold my own in conversations about the game, that I have a favourite player (Hi, Peyton!!) and that I can cheer alongside Ben confidently, although I still pick the team he’s not cheering for just to be a pain (old habits, dying hard, you know).

So when Toni and Jacqueline hatched the plan to take the boys to a Baltimore Ravens game for a Christmas gift, it was an easy HELLS YEAH! The Ravens are Ben’s team and, in a funny coincidence, also Cody’s favourite team. Mike loves the NFL period, so it was a win-win-win (Andreah and Joe couldn’t come because of monies…and because none of us are rich, we couldn’t swing the coverage for them…it SUCKED that they couldn’t be there, but life is life, regardless of the NFL and the Ravens, and ROAD TRIP!).

A road trip means FOOD. And to kick it off, I baked a few treats…some scones, some delicious cranberry oat muffins, some healthy banana oat cookies, and, of course, some terrible for you but SO YUMMY milk chocolate chip cookies. Snacks were COVERED.

OH YEAH

YUM

For us to go, of course, it meant finding a babysitter that would be willing to hang out with our crazies for THREE DAYS. We have three kids under 6…that is not a small thing to ask. Luckily, we’ve got points with the mothers, and between our mom and Ben’s mom, along with some uber support from Grandpa Mike, we were able to leave our babies and embark on the 9-hour trip to Baltimore, Maryland.

The willing victims...I mean ROCK STARS.

The willing victims…I mean ROCK STARS.

We left at crazy-o’clock in the morning…can you see the clock in the above picture? That says 4:50 a.m., people. We mean business. Toni and Mike picked us up and drove the white Tahoe that they rented for the trip – it was the only vehicle big enough for everyone (all 6 of us) and our STUFF (Mike couldn’t see out the back, but that’s not THAT important…) – to get Jacqueline and Cody. Mike had actually won the rental at his work Christmas party the weekend before, which was a stroke of luck that saved us OODLES of money, considering we were taking the rental over the border and putting 837487436750 km on it. Even the Christmas party gods wanted us to go! SIGNS, BABY!

Jacqueline had never driven as far as we were driving, or traveled for as long as we were travelling, so she didn’t know what to expect. She DID however win the ‘best seat partner’ award from me, because she brought 14 pillows and 56 cozy, thick, soft, fuzzy blankets.

Hello, beautiful.

Hello, beautiful.

Our backseat was tight, because we have the shortest legs, but it was the most comfortable seat ever. Take your shoes off, put your head down, close your eyes, and voila! Road trippin’ naps.

The cool kids sit in the back

The cool kids sit in the back (our view)

Mike was driving, which he preferred AND it was what the insurance on the rental covered, Ben was his front-seat passenger, because this way he could hear conversations (otherwise, it’d be an isolated trip for him), Cody and Toni were in the middle, and Jacqueline and I were in the waaaaaaay back. Cramped, cozy, ROAD TRIP.

The middle trying to sneak into the back...everyone wants to be the cool kids.

The middle trying to sneak into the back…everyone wants to be the cool kids.

The first stop was for coffee. Exactly 15 minutes away from Jacqueline and Cody’s house. People peed, caffeine and breakfast were obtained, and then we were on our way.

The border was by far the most nervous part of our trip and happened within the first 90 minutes of driving. The border guy, who we weren’t dumb enough to take a picture of, was full of tight-lippedness. He couldn’t see Jacqueline and I in the back seat, so we had to pop up and say, “Here!” just like during attendance at school. He asked why we were going to see an NFL game…to which we had trouble answering because the answer was obvious. Mike said, “Entertainment.” Everyone held their breath. Then the super serious border guy relented and said, “Yeah, but why Baltimore?” Ahhh! Breathing can commence – he’s being FUNNY. (So scary). Big hump hurdled, onto the next!

Our first gas stop was called the Fractured Prune. Can't make this stuff up.

Our first gas stop was called the Fractured Prune. Can’t make this stuff up.

The next hurdle was crossing through New York state into Pennsylvania. While we were in the great state of Pennsylvania, we witnessed a car accident – the guy turning left decided to go regardless of the fact he had a red light…and the guy going straight through slammed into him, surprisingly. Moments after we left that intersection, we were almost hit by someone else running a red light, again trying to turn left. We decided to get out of that city and stop for some lunch. At this point I’d already had TWO naps (a Canadian side one, and a New York one…all in all, a GOOD DAY).

We decided to go to Hardee’s, a burger place that Mike had heard of and wanted to try. The hamburgers were just all right and the fries were CRAZY salty. In the end, it wasn’t anything special, and we all got the gift of fun pooping later that evening (TMI? TOO BAD).

Never heard of it. Made everyone POOP.

Hardee’s: Never heard of it. Made everyone POOP.

The best part about the road trip so far (you know, besides the lack of children and the napping)? The fact that it was SO warm. We left Ontario with winter coming at us, negative temperatures and lots of bundling required. We got to the States and discovered temperatures that required no coat and no boots. It was like springtime. SO AWESOME.

I had another nap (OH YEAH) and we made it through Pennsylvania, land of the no-stop-red-lights, and into Maryland, land of everyone-honks-while-driving. Our hotel was right downtown Baltimore and a mile away from the stadium, meaning once we got there, we could park and not have to drive again until we headed home.

You must say the name of the hotel in a British accent, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

You must say the name of the hotel in a British accent, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

The hotel was beautiful – it had just been redone, so everything was clean and new and the staff were lovely. They originally booked us on two different floors, but then totally switched us all to the 12th floor so we could be near each other. Even though it must have been a pain, they were so kind about it.

Branded sheets? Fancy!

Branded sheets? Fancy!

Our room was lovely. Spacious. Had lots of room to sit on the floor, a huge king-size bed (we are queens here at home), comfortable chairs, a closet and bathroom. The only trouble? No fan in the bathroom. So all of those Hardee’s poops? Fodder for everyone. BLEH.

After we had settled in, we decided to go exploring and find some dinner. The first order of business was figuring out where the game would be the next day.

The Baltimore Ravens play at M&T Bank Stadium, which is right beside where the Baltimore Orioles play at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. They share a parking lot, they’re so close to each other.

(From top left, clockwise): Home run landings marked by bronze baseballs in the concrete; the stadium lit by the Baltimore sunset; entrance to the stadium; A.L. East Division Champions banner

(From top left, clockwise): Home run landings marked by bronze baseballs in the concrete; the stadium lit by the Baltimore sunset; entrance to the stadium; A.L. East Division Champions banner

To get to the Baltimore Ravens’ home, we had to walk through the Orioles’ stomping ground. Did you know that Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore? We didn’t either!

The boys posing with Baltimorean, Babe Ruth.

The boys posing with Baltimorean, Babe Ruth.

A beautiful war memorial right after Oriole land and right before Raven land. It reads, "Time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

A beautiful war memorial right after Oriole land and right before Raven land. It reads, “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

And then, once we were steeped in Oriole and baseball lore, we made it to Ravens Walk, M&T Stadium, and all things FOOTBALL. Ben (and the boys) were in HEAVEN.

We MADE it.

We MADE it.

Statues of Ray Lewis and Johnny Unitas

Statues of Ray Lewis and Johnny Unitas in front of the stadium

Ben v.s. Ravens' football helmet garbage cans - who will win?

Ben v.s. Ravens’ football helmet garbage cans – who will win?

M&T Stadium, empty and gearing up for the big game

M&T Stadium, empty and gearing up for the big game

After getting our fill of Ravens’ pregame show, we headed off in search of dinner. We were all starving and tired (regardless of the 4587634 naps we had on the way down).

Who can name the sitcom this references? Anyone? Bueller?

Who can name the sitcom this references? Anyone? Bueller?

We settled on 17 Light, which was a restaurant in another hotel on Light Street. We had tried another restaurant, but the host didn’t seem too keen on doing his job (he answered the phone right after saying “Hi” to us), and then told us it was a 45 minute wait to be seated, even though it looked empty.

This restaurant, the one that served us delicious food, had a bartender/host who greeted us warmly. When he found out we were from Canada, he instantly said he had started watching a Canadian show and LOVED it. All of us were bracing for it – Corner Gas? Red Green? Nope. Trailer Park Boys. We told him that it wasn’t entirely indicative of what life in Canada looks like, but it was the perfect ice-breaker.

Our dinner spot...where we left our mark.

Our dinner spot…where we left our mark.

After dinner, we got some beer, some wine, and hung out in Ben’s and my hotel room, decompressing after the loooooong day. We watched the tail end of Fast Five, where Paul Walker was alive and Vin Diesel still had no neck (it was a no-neck off between him and The Rock…ripped, big, and neckless).

It was heaven to be away from home, to hang out with (some of) the sisters, and have no babies to care for. It was the perfect start to a vacation much-needed and football-filled.

Tune in tomorrow when Toni will regale you with tales of GAME DAY!

~ Julia

Have yourself a merry little Christmas and an incredible New Year

‘Tis the night before the night before the night before Christmas and all through the Sisterhood last minute gifts are being purchased and wrapped, last shifts are being worked, last plans are being confirmed, and the last dregs of the year will be enjoyed.

We’ll be taking a break from posting until the New Year. You’ll find us back Monday January 5 with tales of a trip to an NFL game in Baltimore and other exciting news about how we spent our Christmas vacation.

Until then, stay safe, stay warm, stay in the love. Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

From all of us and ours to all of you and yours! <3

From all of us and ours to all of you and yours! ❤

Love, Weather Vane Sisterhood

Top three Christmas memories…so far!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! This will be the last of our posts to tide you all over until the new year. We will be off with our families making lots of memories, eating a ton, traveling and getting LOTS AND LOTS new blog posts to write about. So let’s make this post about Christmas past as we bring on the present(s) (ha! did you get it? Presents? Because it’s Christmas?)

There have been three that have certainly stuck out over my many trips around the sun…so let me waste no time and get started counting these Christmas/New Year’s memories down!

Holiday memory numero 3

When we were younger we used to only decorate our tree on Christmas Eve. Now that I think about it, it was probably more so my mom and dad didn’t have to deal with the messy needles for a long time; however, we would put on a Christmas movie, get into our pj’s from last year if they still fit, and sometimes even if they didn’t fit. Snuggled up on the couch, we would all get our little set of decorations that we acquired over the years. Dad would lie on the couch and wouldn’t move until all the decorations were on the tree, then he’d peel himself out of his spot in the corner of the sectional to place his Snoopy on the top of the tree right beside the angel. As our family changed over the years our tradition had to change. So now we have the annual trimming of one of our Christmas trees!

Big ol’ number 2 Christmas memory

The first time I was introduced to Cody’s family in Brampton was Christmas. We had just started dating and I was a little nervous. I mean, is everyone’s family as crazy and loud as mine? Will they like me? Looking back now I have no idea why I was so nervous. His family is so amazing and inviting, they are loving and I felt totally at home.

Every family event Auntie April gets Lindt chocolates specific for the event. Snowmen, or Santas for Christmas. Turkeys or leaves for Thanksgiving. Eggs or bunnies for Easter. Either way, after my first Brampton family event, everyone knows that they should just give me their chocolates, because one way or another I was going to end up eating them.

Family

NUMBER ONE!!!!

Was two years ago. Cody and I woke up prepared to spend the day with his mom, I was super excited this year because I was SO excited to give Cody is Excalibur cross-bow! Yup I had outdone myself that year! Early in the morning, around 6, I felt Cody get up, which isn’t unusual – I thought he would be making Christmas coffee. When he came back up and cuddled in he squeezed a little tighter. I snuggled in thinking we would just go back to sleep. Cody was restless and didn’t fall back asleep. At around 7:30 Cody started to whisper in my ear and he finally went downstairs to make coffee for us. He came back up and wanted to go down stairs to cuddle on the couch and watch some Christmas morning TV, which doesn’t exist people!!!!! We weren’t sitting on the couch long when Cody asked me to go and get him something from the fridge. I obliged! I went into the kitchen and opened the fridge, grabbed what I had come for and turned around. There was Cody on one knee and he looked so nervous! I asked him what he was doing. He was dumbfounded! How did I not see it?! He told me to go back in the fridge and look again. I opened the door and there sitting in front of a beer in the fridge on the top shelf RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE was a ring! THE ring!!!!!!! He asked me if I would marry him, he told me he loved me and wanted to be with me for the rest of our lives. I was so happy, and excited and shocked that I didn’t even reply, I grabbed the ring and put it on my finger and grabbed Cody!

The Ring

Best

Christmas

ever!!!!!!!!

Those are my favorite memories. Maybe this year, one of them will be knocked into fourth place.

‘Til the New Year everyone!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

~ Jacqui

Soundtrack for the season

I have a confession to make: I love Christmas music.

I have a playlist devoted entirely to Christmas music. When I was working, it was all that was in my MP3 player from November 1 until well into the New Year. I don’t wait until after November 11 to start it up, but I don’t feel disrespectful because it’s just for me, not for my store or my mall or my commercialism. It’s for my happiness. I am impatient until the local radio station flips over to being my “Home for the Holidays” and plays nonstop Christmas music. And on Boxing Day? December 26? When they abruptly, at 12 a.m., flip back over to complete non-Christmas music? I feel bereft, like someone pulled the plug on my drug and I’m left walking around in a kind of Christmas music hangover, where I know I’ve got my fill, yet, I still want more.

To help you firmly climb onto the Christmas music party bus, I’ve listed my top five songs of the season.

Nostalgia-filled – The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)
As kids, we only had a few Christmas tapes (yes, tapes) that were played over and over and over. Boney M., New Kids On the Block (OH, YES), The California Raisins (no, seriously), and of course, Alvin and the Chipmunks. I used to know all the lyrics to Christmas Don’t Be Late, and I’m disappointed in how far I’ve fallen. I will relearn the words. I will know it by heart again. I will not let Dave down!

Whimsy pick – I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
There’s something that I desperately wish we could have for a pet – a hippopotamus. I feel like they would overcome our allergy issue and would make a fabulous house guest. In fact, this commercial practically proves my point. Ben disagrees. But Gayla Peevey? She’s got my number. And it’s a toe-tapper as well. Win-win.

Christmas cheese – Same Old Lang Syne
There needs to be some songs that make you weep and cringe at the same time, and for me, it’s this song. I love how cheesy it is, how incredibly corny and cliched and sad and that it’s a story about a lonely Christmas Eve between two ex-lovers. It’s everything that Christmas is – beautiful, hard, achy, lovely. I unabashedly love this terrible song.

Reason for the season – I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
In a past life I sang in church choirs a minimum of two times a week. Every year, we’d of course put our heart and soul into celebrating Jesus’ birth with music. This song, by this incredible group, Casting Crowns, gives me goosebumps every time I hear it and singing it? Shivers. He is the reason and this song encapsulates the feeling that surrounds Christmas.

Holy crap pick – Little Drummer Boy
Every once in a while a group of artists surprise you, fascinate you and make you sit back in awe. Pentatonix is this group for me. This song, although not one of my Christmas favourites, was the first song I heard this group sing and I immediately had to share them, watch and rewatch them and weep in gratitude when a friend gave me a copy of their first Christmas album. They are awesome. And all of the songs on their Christmas playlist are amazing. Seriously.

I hope your Christmas is merry, bright, and filled with music that only comes around once a year.

~ Julia

WVS Gift Guide for the Hunter in your life

As you all know, the love of my life Cody is a outdoors-man/hunter…although, put a spider in front of him and he will prove that label wrong.  For this gift guide, I am going to let you in on a little secret…Cody tells me ALL YEAR ROUND what to buy him and all I have to do is listen in on his conversations with his hunting group, the conversations with his friends, and with his uncle Pierre – it’s his only pastime (other than me). I am not eavesdropping…Well, I am, but only to find out how I can spoil him, because that is one of my favourite pastimes!

See? favourite pastime!

First, I will address fashion. In every hunter’s wardrobe, camo is a staple: real tree camo that is! Everything and anything: t-shirts, long sleeve shirts, hoodies, under armour, socks, boots, jackets, EVERYTHING!! This year, my eyes are on reversible camos, which go from winter to fall hunting. They are essential and very practical to closet space, when you think about it. Instead of having two sets of bibs* taking up all the room in the closet that should be for everyone’s coats, there will be plenty of room with these oh-so-fancy pants!

Those hunters are fashion forward! Such thinkers!

If you are budget savvy, then this next option is not for you! Two years ago I bought Cody a new excalibur bow, with the help of our friend Jeff, because, let’s be honest, I would go for the prettiest ones, which may work like crap. Cody had been handed down a bow from his uncle, which had seen better days. He had been talking about upgrading it and adding on a new scope to help him see better, and tweaking it to get a better shot out of it. I thought with all the upgrading he would be putting into it, why not just get a new bow? I asked Jeff if he could help out with finding one on sale, that is still a great bow, which he did. I got a picture about a week later, telling me to BUY IT – so I did! If you are to take anything away from this post, it should be do research! My form of research is the many men in my life who LOVE hunting and love Cody. All of Cody’s friends who he grew up with are thankfully interested in the same hobby, so having them as my experts is where I start. Not only will they help me find what I am looking for, but they also help me with the lingo, so when it does come time for me to purchase any one of these items, I sound like I know what  I am talking about!  The look on Cody’s face when he opened this gift was PRICELESS! This year he has been dropping hints for a new gun, but I didn’t give in this year, even though this would be right up my alley for spoiling. There is always his birthday, then the wedding.

I don’t think this is the exact model, but I can’t tell the difference. That’s where you get your researchers to help!!!!

If you have not noticed a trend, everything is real tree camo. In our area, Sail, which is an outdoor store, just opened up. At this point, Cody has not made me go into the store, so I am not sure if this is going to be the greatest thing ever because I will no longer have to travel far to get his gifts, or the bane of my existence because Cody will have a better chance of getting more “just because” presents.

Hunters require tags for every season in order for the ministry to hunt legally (this excludes waterfowl, which have other ministry limits) and they can be purchased at Canadian Tire. A great gift idea would be a gift card for their tags for the season. These requirements are Ontario-based, but I am assuming that the same concept would be across Canada and the US; however, they may have other requirements. Most people may think that gift cards are impersonal, but to me giving Cody a gift card for any one of his favourite stores to get himself all set up for the season is one of the best gifts you can give a hunter. In Southern Ontario, that includes TSC, Canadian Tire, Sail, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, which are all larger box stores that a gift card would be great for. Cody has some local favourite outdoor stores, little mom and pop shops that he visits frequently, but again do research so that you can give a gift and give back to your local small shops!

Enjoy the shopping season, and try to spread the holiday cheer!

~ Jacqui

*Bibs are the the pant sets of camos, which are worn over the shoulders. They pretty much look like snow pants for hunters…Okay, they are snow pants for hunters.

WVS Gift Guide for the Big Kid at Heart

I am fortunate enough to have someone that I find it incredibly easy to choose gifts for. Not only is it because we’ve been together like a bajillion years so I know him pretty well, but also because it’s so much fun to buy things for him.

Michael, is my big kid at heart. Not only does it make the gift buying process enjoyable, but also the giving – his sincere gratitude and love for my thoughtfulness is pretty rewarding in itself. I’m always so excited for the day he opens his gift that I almost burst with anticipation – and that’s if I don’t slip and tell him what it is weeks before I’m supposed to give it to him.

Much like Julia, I too already have Michael’s gift for Christmas,  (seriously, this should be noted, then re-read, because this is a miracle of Christmas in itself – Hallelujah!) however, if I hadn’t completed the first Christmas miracle of 2014, here are a few things I might have gone with instead, for the big kid at heart:

1. Toys: in our house, toys means an entirely different thing than traditional children’s play things. And get your mind out of the gutter (JQ, I’m looking at you…), it doesn’t mean what the other half of you are thinking now. Toys for Michael and I mean parts/upgrades/additions to our trucks or the boat.

Anything from new seats for the boat which range from $20 – $ridiculous.

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These Sport Master Blue and Grey centric style fishing boat seats go for roughly $100/seat

Or a light rack for his new project, the 4Runner:

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This 10″ Baha Rack Lightbar sells for roughly $200-250 – don’t forget the lights!

2. Video Games: depending on your budget, a video game or even console is perfect for the guy that enjoys his down time by kicking a little ass. Make sure you know which ‘type’ of gamer they are as I have learned they are usually faithful to or desire a certain brand of system.

If I wasn’t so freaked out about the voice, movement, placement, pretty much spy camera and microphone features, I might be one to upgrade Michael to the new XBox One…might.

Sells for $399 at most retailers

Sells for $399 at most retailers

For now he’s just going to have to settle for one or two of the games on his wish list.

NHL 2015 sells for $69 at most retailers

NHL 15 sells for $69 at most retailers

3. The Coolest Book in the World: I knew instantly that Michael would go crazy for this book the moment I laid eyes on it. It was just SO cool!

What book you ask? This book:

Sells for $30-50 at most retailers

Sells for $30-50 at most retailers

Filled with facts, trivia, and a ton of how-tos – like all of the information you could ever want about famous battles in history and even step by step instructions for building  a go-kart – The Dangerous Book for Boys is a must have.

Even how to do a coin trick

Even how to do a coin trick

See? So cool.

4. Pellet Gun: I don’t know very many people (don’t worry, I know they exist!) that don’t enjoy setting up a target or two and taking aim with a pellet gun.

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Pure joy while gazing at his Red Ryder Air Riffle

And I know for sure that my big kid at heart looked just like Ralphie on Christmas morning when he opened his.

IMG_0357

Crossman Optimus Air Riffle with Scope sells at Cabela’s for $180

Whoever you’re buying for this Christmas, I hope above all you are spoiled with love, laughter, and sweet memories galore.

~ Toni

Let it snow!

I love snow.

LOVE it.

I love how it looks. I love the season it kicks off (Christmas!!). I love how it sounds at night. I love how it makes everything perfect again, white and blanketed, mud and other flaws covered (at least until the plows and boots and dogs get to it). I LOVE SNOW.

And in my opinion, snowflakes are by far the prettiest element in holiday decorating. They’re sparkly. They can be formal. They can be hand-scrawled. They can be blue, white, red, green, or any other colour up there on that rainbow. They can be ornaments, they can make a wreath, they can be part of an outdoor scene, they can frost up  your indoor decor. They are fun to make and glitter just makes them better. And guys? Each one is different. Or, that’s what we’re believing. You are like a snowflake – unique until proven otherwise. 😉

I'm not the only one enamored by snowflakes. Sophie has been cutting them out and hanging them up around the house to "get ready for Christmas." How can I argue with that?

I’m not the only one enamored by snowflakes. Sophie has been cutting them out and hanging them up around the house to “get ready for Christmas.” How can I argue with that?

I also love crafting. I used to be a Sunday School teacher and one of my favourite parts was the craft – the glue, the glitter, the cutting, the creating, the colouring (remember colouring? Oh, the good old days.). I have a ton of craft stuff at home and most of it the babies can play with. But some of it? Some of it is all mine. ALL MINE. 

I’m a good sharer, but when it comes to Mommy’s grown-up craft stuff, back off. 

I have lots of fun things to make cards with – cardstock, stamps, ink, paper punches, markers, hole punches, adhesives (FANCY GLUE!!) – and I rarely have time to play with it.

But lately, I’ve been sneaking in time when I should be folding laundry to make a card. Or two. But usually just one because one card takes me so long. I want to get it right, get it perfect, get it so that it will look more like I made it and less like Sophie or Lillian made it. You know, like a grown-up made it. And that means I get muddled and mired and stuck.

This weekend, however, I found the time and space and inspiration to sit down and make four Christmas/winter cards, all featuring my favourite, the snowflake.

By space and time, I mean I found some stamps and markers for the girls so that they could have their own stamping/crafting fun.

"What are you doing, Mommy?" (Read: I'm completely innocent and purely curious...I won't get into anything...promise).

“What are you doing, Mommy?” (Read: I’m completely innocent and purely curious…I won’t get into anything…promise).

She might be a teeny, tiny bit excited by the new craft supplies - stamps and markers that aren't completely dried out?! HEAVEN.

She might be a teeny, tiny bit excited by the new craft supplies – stamps and markers that aren’t completely dried out?! HEAVEN.

And by inspiration, I mean I went on Pinterest and scoured other people’s genius for ideas so that I didn’t have to sit and muddle for hours…I got to craft for hours. It was dreamy.

The first card I wanted to attempt was something simple and streamlined. Something easy-peasy. Something elegant, like this one:

Here’s what I came up with, using a nice dark blue cardstock for the card, a snowflake stamp dipped in ink of the same colour, and accents drawn on with a silver marker:

My simple snowflake card

My simple snowflake card

My favourite part about this card, other than the fact that it’s so easy (just some cutting, gluing, and a stamp!), is that it is winter-themed, not necessarily Christmas-themed. You could give this to a Muslim or a Jew or a Buddhist or someone who loves the phrase “Happy Holidays” and is offended by “Merry Christmas.” It’s perfect for the awkward card-giving, where you want to give something, but you don’t want to put your foot in your mouth. (Note: I LOVE this chart for how to handle these uncomfortable social situations…it’s brilliant and simple like this card!)

The second one was going to be a bit more complicated. I saw this patchwork card and LOVED it. I wanted to recreate the same feeling and I’m excited to make other cards (non-Christmas ones, of course!) with paper scraps that I have lying around. I also love the idea of mixing patterns – I’m not brave enough to do it in my outfits, but darn it, I’m a freaking renegade with paper!

Created by the mastermind behind the Kifli és levendula Blog

Created by the mastermind behind the Kifli és levendula Blog

Here’s my version:

My take on the patchwork

My take on the patchwork style

I love how all of the patterns have some sort of snowflake element to them and that they’re all of the same colour families. This cardstock came in a pad of four different designs from Stampin’ Up, so I didn’t have to work too hard to make them co-ordinate. Regardless, I’m a pattern-mixing daredevil!

My third inspiration was a bit more complicated – repeat one shape to make another shape. In this case, I took my cue from this pretty card that used snowflakes to create a wreath:  

Created by Carol Longacre

Created by Carol Longacre

I don’t have a snowflake punch, but I do have a snowflake stamp. I also wanted to put the snowflakes in a different colour family – the traditional reds and greens of Christmas. Here is my snowflake wreath:

Voila! A little lopsided, but still the effect I wanted.

Voila! A little lopsided, but still the effect I wanted.

I used green and red ink to make the wreath, and used two different sizes of snowflake stamps – the bigger one for the greenery, and the smaller one for the berries. I added a line of washi tape along the left side and I put a stamped and punched element in the middle of the wreath because I felt it looked a little empty. I don’t know if I love the I ❤ Santa stamp with the wreath (I feel they are different pieces of the Christmas pie), but all in all it’s sweet and I do like the effect of the wreath. I also love that I had the forethought to draw a circle in light pencil before stamping so I was able to stamp a pretty-close-to-round shape. 😉 A light erase afterwards and y’all thought I was magic. (Note: I am.) (Second note: Clearly not infallibly magic – I still managed to put a dent in the top right of the circle…whatever.)

Sophie was so impressed by this, she made her own versions:

Created by my stamping prodigy, Sophie

Created by my stamping prodigy, Sophie

The final card that I was inspired by had snowflakes of a more rainbow variety:

Created by Karen Day

Created by Karen Day

I really like the snowflakes and the stark white background in this card. The effect is really lovely. This is what I came up with:

My snowflake rainbow

My snowflake rainbow

I LOVE how this card turned out and it is by far my favourite of the four. It’s hard to see here, but the card is a bright pink colour with a green outline. The snowflakes are pink, green, blue and yellow. The message is pink and blue. It’s so bright and cheery and I’m in love. It wasn’t hard to create at all. The trickiest piece was drawing a line from the left to the right edge on an angle so that I could control my snowflake fall. I knew without that guide, I’d be stamping all over the place. Again, I made the line in light pencil and erased it when I was done.

I had so much fun grown-up crafting during daylight hours with my girls. They seemed to love it as well, with both of them churning out some pretty impressive stamping for their first time.

Sophie was rather proud of this one.

Sophie was rather proud of this one.

This is what Lillian came up with once she stopped stamping on the stamp cleaning cloths...

This is what Lillian came up with once she stopped stamping on the stamp cleaning cloths…

We had Christmas music playing, all three of us took turns distracting and wrangling Isaac, and Ben was playing a video game. The perfect end to a busy weekend. Now, if we can just get the rain to stop here and bring back the snow, we’d be set for Christmas!

~ Julia

WVS Gift Guide for the Geek

Oh, it’s coming.

Can you feel it?

The Christmas season is ramping up. And that means that Christmas shopping is beginning…or, if you’re one of those people, it’s over already and you’re sitting under your cozy blanket, sipping your cocoa, watching Christmas movies smugly while the rest of us are still in brainstorming mode.

Here at the Sisterhood, we’re in full Christmas mode. Some of the sisters and babies went to the local Santa Claus parade this past weekend, we’ve made plans to decorate a tree together, as has been the tradition for the past few years, and sugarplum visions are definitely dancing.

Lillian and Sophie with their boosters

Lillian and Sophie with their boosters

So, what to get the loved ones in your life? The hard-to-buy-for? The have-everythings? We’re here to help! For the next few weeks, each sister will give you a gift guide to help cross people off your list or add stocking stuffers you might not have thought of.

My gift guide is for the geek in your life, the kid that never grew up, the adult who loves their toys – a.k.a. Ben.

It’s tough buying for a geek when you are not a geek yourself. If you don’t speak Warhammer or Game of Thrones or Star Wars, what the heck do you do, short of asking for a detailed, specific list, including where to buy such things?

And Ben is like most geeks: he’s particular. He likes what he likes and nothing else. This can be a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, you can’t just go to Google, type in ‘gifts for geeks’ and pick something willy-nilly. You’ve got to know your stuff. In fact, when I was coming up with this gift guide, I had to ask him clarifying questions about which games he played and what systems he subscribed to. Geeks are TOUGH. But, it also means they have likes – there’s nothing worse than trying to buy for someone who just doesn’t care. My biggest tip? Before purchasing anything, double check what you should be buying. You don’t want to get a Star Trek hoodie just to discover your geek likes Star Wars. TRUST ME.

For my geek, I wanted to get things that could be useful and fun – we have kids and limited funds, so purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of miniature-painting items make no sense. He has no time, our babies would eat everything, and I want more bang for my buck.

Ben likes to build things. If Isaac were older, we’d totally have Lego building parties, but since we’re still in Lego-can-kill-the-baby stage, we are firmly in Mega Bloks land. But, saying we were in the tiny building block stage, I would totally get Ben some Lego.

Like this Lego Minecraft set. I asked him which one and he said The Forest. And then he started to hum and ha about it. So, I’d get him a couple. And then maybe a gift card for more. Because what do I know?!

Lego Minecraft - The Forest

Lego Minecraft – The Forest

Something I do know about is coffee. This Build-On Brick Mug is perfect for the block lover on your list. It’s practical (CAFFEINE) and fun! It also works with whatever block set you have, so you don’t have to buy new blocks to work with your new mug. Win-win.

Build-On Brick Mug

Build-On Brick Mug

Beyond Lego, I can see Ben and our babies (after they’re all done swallowing screws and small parts) building other things together, like this catapult. I’m not saying I would condone such projects, but I think they’d have an absolute blast putting something like this together and then shooting things across the house. At me. Maybe this shouldn’t be on the gift list.

Catapult Kit

Catapult Kit

My geek LOVES t-shirts. Would wear them all day, every day, if his job didn’t require a collar. This t-shirt is totally him – it’s graphic, doesn’t have a crazy saying on it that he couldn’t wear everywhere, and it’s from The Big Bang Theory, one of his favourite shows.

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock, anyone?

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock, anyone?

He also likes to cook. And he’s in charge of all the knives in our house (read: I can’t be trusted). I saw this knife set and knew it was over the top. And expensive. But, if money were no object and I didn’t care about our home decor (I legitimately don’t – my design ethic is ‘won’t kill yourself walking around’), this would be the knife block I would get him. Note that it’s Star Wars and NOT Star Trek.

Star Wars X-Wing Knife Block

Star Wars X-Wing Knife Block

Maybe he could whip up a fitting lunch to go in this geeky lunch bag. Chemistry, anyone?

Periodic Lunch Bag

Periodic Lunch Bag

To go with his super nerdy lunch, Ben could also take this scientist-fueled calendar, based on the popular Mythbusters show, and put it on his desk at work. A myth busted every day? With scientific explanations? GEEK-HEAVEN. Maybe not great for productivity, though…

Mythbusters Page-A-Day Calendar

Mythbusters Page-A-Day Calendar

Ben and his family love playing board games together. It’s a little daunting playing with them since they have been doing it for so long and have this secret language and code, especially when playing Clue (I’m SO out of my league!). Ben and I have been having weekly date nights and for some of them we play a game or two. The last game we played was chess, whereby Ben whooped my butt a hundred times. The board we used is mine from high school and it’s missing a pawn, the felt is wearing, and the board is starting to fall apart. I love the look of this board, it folds up nice and small, and would be a welcome upgrade to the ghetto one we have.

Vintage Chess Set  - so Ben can kick  my ass in style!

Vintage Chess Set – so Ben can kick my ass in style!

His love and skill for chess stems from his number-minded brain. I work in words, he works in digits, sums, and math (gross). This numbers puzzle would be right up his alley. Not mine.

Aristotle's Number Puzzle

Aristotle’s Number Puzzle

My geek also has the weird addition of being a jock. And that piece of his nerdom can’t be ignored. He’s an avid football (NFL, not European) fan, and specifically LOVES the Baltimore Ravens (something about defenses and his high school football career and other stuff). He also likes biking, as in, bicycling to work. This backpack would be perfect – branded with his team and big enough to carry all of his work clothes so he’s not sweaty and gross all day.

Baltimore Ravens Black Trooper Backpack

Baltimore Ravens Black Trooper Backpack

I almost wish that I hadn’t already bought Ben his Christmas present this year (Toni, Jacqui and I are taking our football-loving boys to a Baltimore Ravens game in December!), because I would definitely be getting him items off of this list. Ah well, there’s always next year!

~ Julia